Nurses and Depression: An Essay

Nursing and depression are a strange pair of entities that intersect at various points of the compass. Yet the nursing profession continues to walk an uneasy line between comprending depression as a patient symptom and experiencing depression  as a career side effect. Today nursing stands at a pivotal place in history, with academia, the origins of medicine, and progress pulling the threads of nursing theory every which way.

Nursing is a time-honored institution whose origins claims famous feminist icons such as Clara Barton, Margaret Sanger, Mary Breckenridge, and Florence Nightingale. But the feminist mystique itself has oudistanced the treatment and conventional wisdom surrounding depression as a medical concern. Depression, and the treatment of depression, for many people, can be a difficult concept to grasp. Depression is a psychiatric disorder of the mind and psyche which affects persons undergoing medical treatment, but can also originate as a harbinger of other diseases. Depression has almost become a slang term in the pop culture vocabulary used casually to descrive feeling “down”. Yet as a medical denominator, the presence of depression  is serious business.

Depression can be a symptom as well as a diagnosis. Yet the physical side of the medical and nursing fields can often override the psychological of many wellness crises. Conventional wisdom usually trumps academic progress. Commercial pharmaceutical treatment usually beats out long-term alternatives, and little endorsment is given to nontherapeutic analysis. The medical institution as a whole functions mostly to heal the body, and the psycho-analytic milestones in healing don’t keep pace with the limitation of treatment access options for the afflicted. Dabbling in depression doagnosis is seen as specialist referral stuff. Medical professionals are all too familiar with these “rules of the road”.

Both doctors and nurses are more comfortable in general discussing medical symptoms according to a pathology of pure anatomy and disordered functions of the body. This is their clinical training taking over. This is understandable, as many facets of the psychological applications of depression treatment color between the lines of many disciplines. And ad hoc experimentation in the world of treatment for depression is uually not rewarded from a multiple of perspectives.

Too often, physicians skip over depression as a treatable illness and focus on the more concrete diagnoses of the body. In many cultures, psychological illness still carries a stigma from periods of civilization where too little was known about the causes and origins of depression. The onus of depressive symptoms as ‘”madness” still  remains.

Early man used drugs, societal separation, and medicinal forms of witchcraft to “treat” early forms of depression. Later cultures shipped mad people offf to sea, in groups, on a Ship of Fools”., Relying on God to guide their destiny. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung introduced a standardized form of psychological vocabulary to the medical world, and contemporary man has distinguished himself by pursuing depression in its various guides as a clinical and scientific study for decades.

Today, studies connect depression and everything to sleep deprivation, opiate addiction, anorexia nervosa, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and more. Prevention of depression and observing symptoms of depression, are now a key element of physician treatment advice. The dynamic of career choice has affected medical workers, doctors, and nurses as the practices began to take on occupational definition since the late 1600’s. Medicine  as a discipline has undergone radical reforms from it’s early days. The “physicking’ of another person began to take shape not just as a career for learned man, but as an occupation for educated men and individuals in search of a paying career. While the first doctors of this type were from the most elite classes of scholar and the most wealthy set of people in every culture, religion as  a passport to medical practice admitted religious elders to the treatment of others in more than one tribal civilization around the globe.

Many early teaching institutions centered around the scholastic training of doctors, priests, and teachers. The estimation of a physician was often ruled by his breadth of knowledge of medical studies and material of a religious nature. The indoctrination of a scholar in religion was thought to cement the ethics required to operate a medical practice and found the personal ethos necessary for treatment of other persons, conscious or unconscious. The access to the metaphysical world that many cultures connect with physical wellness allowed this transmutation of disciplines to coexist for many centuries.

The ethics associated with physicianship caused male scholars in the early 1700’s to pledge their scholastic faith in religion, as a going rates of “dues” cementing Christian ethics to the science of treating the bodies of other people. But as Calvinism, the teaching s of Martin Luther, and other religious doctrines took shape, the emergence of a new class of doctor purely to treat the physical malady emerged. The doctor as pure scientists emerged. Marie Curie and her husband were examples of this kind of doctor, who practiced their science without allowing religious culture to dominate their thinking. Doctors were thought of as esteemed members of the community, the equal of all but the highest echelons of the social order. Doctors are respected in every type and section of population where high level of education, practice of any differentiated culture, and necessary acknowledgement of the body of knowledge required and the commitment necessary confers a certain prestige.

In the succeeding centuries, academic studies have dominated the world of organized medicine. Then the business world took over mass medicine, and the world now has become a globalized client of large scale medical insurance companies. The patient is not always the client, as doctors usually are the ones that pharmaceutical companies look to for sponsorship of their treatment of new type of medications. It is the nursing profession, and nurses in particular, who deliver the front line of medical care and therapeutic attention to patients. It is the nurses in the medical world who are the ones that patients interact with the most.

But as the nursing career as a lifetime occupation has developed as a paying gig, the culture of acceptance and respect may not have been as evolved. The participation in medical profit for nurses has not followed along with that enjoyed by physicians working half the amount of time per week.  While nurses do the “heavy lifting” of patient care, their compensation is not commensurate with the time spent and sacrifices required of someone who has embarked on a nursing career. Nurses may work unpaid overtime, stay late, and do extra work, but nursing pay generally doesn’t always reflect this contribution. Ensuing generations of nurses will decide if more reform is in order.